TORONTO – In a qualifying session full of surprises and mixed conditions, Christian Lundgaard sprung the final twist by capturing the NTT P1 Award for the Honda Indy Toronto on Saturday.
Lundgaard, 21, from Denmark, earned his second pole of this season and of his young NTT INDYCAR SERIES career with a time of 1 minute, 4.1567 seconds in the No. 45 Vivid Clear Rx Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Lundgaard’s other pole came at the GMR Grand Prix in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
SEE: Qualifying Results
The pole proved how RLL’s focus on improving its pace on temporary street circuits like the 11-turn, 1.786-mile course around Toronto’s Exhibition Place is paying off. The three-car team’s previous best qualifying performance this season on a street course was 11th by Lundgaard at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding in early March.
“I have a history, at least in go-karts, of being fast in the rain,” Lundgaard said. “I’ve only driven in the rain only once in this car, which was Indy GP last year, and we weren’t competitive.
“The Hy-Vee Vivid Clear Rx car today was there. I can’t thank this team enough. I know this is wet, and it’s tricky, but looking at where we were on street circuits earlier this year and last year, we’ve made huge progress.”
Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network in the United States and TSN in Canada. The 30-minute morning warmup starts at 10:15 a.m., with live coverage on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network in the U.S. and TSN+ in Canada.
Every driver in the Firestone Fast Six session switched to Firestone slick tires on a drying track after using rain tires during the slippery second session. That created some fish-tailing, heart-in-throat moments, as all six drivers scrambled for grip in the few areas where the track remained wet. A handful of drivers brushed the wall during the thrilling, unpredictable final session as the rear of their cars side-stepped and sashayed exiting corners.
Scott McLaughlin will start second, tying his season best, after a lap of 1:04.4790 in the No. 3 Gallagher Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet. McLaughlin spun early in the Firestone Fast Six and lost his best time to that point as a penalty for triggering a local yellow, but he turned his quickest lap in the final moments of the session – like nearly every driver – as the circuit began to dry following an intense shower earlier in qualifying.
Pato O’Ward qualified third at 1:04.5500 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Marcus Ericsson will join him in the second row after qualifying fourth at 1:04.9091 in the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda.
Felix Rosenqvist will start fifth after a lap of 1:04.9423 in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, as Arrow McLaren and Team Penske each put two drivers in the Firestone Fast Six. Reigning series champion and all-time INDYCAR SERIES pole record holder Will Power was the second Penske driver in the first three rows, qualifying a season-best sixth at 1:05.0703 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
The three-round qualifying session was almost as noteworthy for who missed the Firestone Fast Six as for those who made the final group.
Championship leader Alex Palou, who leads by 110 points over teammate Scott Dixon, encountered the first hiccup of his dominant season in the first round. He failed to advance as light rain started in the final 90 seconds of his group while he and other drivers were on slick tires and will start a season-low 15th in the No. 10 Journie Rewards Honda. Palou’s worst previous starting spot this season was seventh at St. Petersburg and Texas.
“We really didn’t put together everything we had,” Palou said. “We had a lot more pace than that, and we couldn’t improve on alternates (tires). It’s a shame we’re going to have to start from the back, but we know we have a fast car and can make it from there.”
Reigning Toronto race winner Dixon also didn’t make the Firestone Fast Six, just missing advancing from the second group by .1128 of a second. He will start seventh in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Kyle Kirkwood, fastest in Friday practice and second in practice Saturday morning, will start eighth in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda. Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden, third in the standings, will start 11th in the No. 2 Snap-on Tools Team Penske Chevrolet.